By Leah Althiser @ The Frugal South
Walt Disney World’s on-property resorts are some of the most amazing hotels in the world. They are also amazingly huge and spread out!
If you are in a far-flung room, you can easily spend 10+ minutes hiking to/from your room to get to the transportation, dining and the pool at your resort. Where your room is located at your resort can definitely impact the quality of your vacation experience. A long walk back to your room at the end of a full day at the parks can be downright miserable – especially with little ones in tow!
I’ve stayed at Disney resorts more times than I can count, and I’ve learned there is an art to getting to stay in a room located where you want. I routinely get rooms with the best possible locations and views and have even received upgrades on several occasions.
Getting awesome rooms at Disney World does take a little research and know-how, so in this post I’ll share my secrets of getting the best possible room location at Disney World resort hotels. I’ll make clear the distinction between room categories and requests, show you how to prioritize your requests, and how to make the most effective room requests.
Booking Categories Vs. Room Requests
There are basically two approaches to getting the best possible room location at Disney World resorts: booking a guaranteed room category or putting in a room request before your visit.
At many resorts you can book rooms with a guaranteed location or view. For example, at Old Key West resort you can book designated “Close to Hospitality House” rooms that are only a few minutes’ walk from the dining and feature pool at this resort.
In addition to booking a specific room location or view, you can also make room requests prior to your visit. You can request ground floor rooms, or rooms that are close to transportation, for example.
It is important to note that room requests are just that – requests – and Disney cannot guarantee that they will be able to meet your request. If it is critical that you have a certain location or view during your vacation, I suggest looking into a way to book that guaranteed room type and not relying on a room request.
Know Your Resort & Room Options
It is an excellent idea to familiarize yourself with your resort’s room types and layout when you are planning a stay at a Disney World resort hotel.
Some resorts have only a few options. At Disney’s Beach Club Villas, there are simply Studio, One Bedroom, and Two Bedroom Villas, with no different categories for particular views or room locations. But at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, there are the following room categories: Value, Standard View, Savanna View and Club Level!
Learning all of the available options at your resort will help you select the best room for your budget and the needs of your party.
Sometimes I decide that it makes sense to spend a little more on a preferred room location or view. Other times I decide to book a standard room and make a room request before check-in to hopefully get a room located where I want it. I suggest consulting a map of the resort that shows the location of the different room types to help make this decision. I haven’t found one site that catalogs all of the available resort maps, so I suggest just searching the web for a map that shows the locations of the room types at your resort. General maps of the 13 DVC resorts can be found here: Disney Vacation Club Resort Maps.
It is worthwhile to consult a map because certain room categories may not be in the ideal location for your travel party. The pirate-themed rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach appeal to lots of folks with pirate-crazed little ones, a map of room locations shows that these rooms are the farthest away from the amenities at the resort. Spending 10-15 minutes walking just to get coffee in the morning might not appeal to everyone, so it is a great idea to check a map that shows a resort’s room locations while planning your trip.
Prioritize Your Room Requests
Whether you have booked a preferred room or standard room, I always suggest making a room request before your trip. Even within preferred room categories some locations will be better suited to your needs.
The next step is deciding what is the most important to you in terms of room requests. This is important because the fewer requests you make the more likely they are to be met! I suggest narrowing it down to the TWO most important requests for your travel party.
At resorts with ground floor rooms, I always request to be on the ground floor. Since we use a stroller for our little one, it is so much easier to not have to wrestle it up and down an elevator every time we return to our room.
My other requests depend on the resort and the vacation. I often request to be close to transportation if we plan on going to the parks a lot. When my sister and I stayed at Caribbean Beach last spring on a resort-only trip with our families, we requested to be as close to the pool as possible since we were going to spend most of our time there.
Other common requests are proximity to other members of your travel party, connecting rooms, to be in a certain section of a resort, or to have a certain room view that cannot be booked as a separate room category. It may be hard, but narrowing down your room requests to your top two priorities will greatly increase the odds of getting your requests fulfilled.
When and How to Make Your Room Requests
There isn’t a consensus out there on the best way to place room requests at Disney resorts, so I will just share my strategy and my results. First, the results: I have ALWAYS had all of my requests met on every trip I’ve made to Disney (and that’s 20+ trips just in the past six years). I’ve heard lots of folks complain that they didn’t get their room requests met, so clearly I am doing something right!
There are basically three ways to add room requests to your reservation:
- During the online check-in process
- By calling Disney and asking for the requests to be added to your reservation
- By faxing a room request directly to your resort’s room assigner (with a free online fax service because you likely don’t have a fax machine!)
When I complete the online check-in process (which is the same whether you booked your room with DVC points, directly with Disney, or with a travel agent), I always add my top priority room requests if they are available. As an example, for our last stay in a Standard View Studio at Animal Kingdom Lodge, my top priorities were to be close to the lobby and have a partial view of a savanna. Though rooms with full savanna views are a separate booking category, you can see animals from many standard view rooms at both Jambo House and Kidani Village. During online check-in, there was not an option to request a partial savanna view but “close to lobby” was an option, so I just chose that.
I personally have had great success with “faxing” my requests to the room assigner at my resort. I upload my fax in a word document to the website FaxZero.com which then sends it off to my Disney resort (I find the fax number for my resort with a quick web search). I aim to fax my room request 5-7 days before my check-in date.
As you can see from my example above, I try to be as brief and cordial as possible. I also mention where I’m from and the fact that I am a repeat visitor because I figure it never hurts to make a personal connection.
I also try to be more general than specific in my requests. I don’t ask to be in a certain room or section of the resort – instead I ask to be as close as possible to whatever is most important.
For our stay in a standard room at Caribbean Beach I considered requesting one of the villages that are closest to the pool, but I instead decided to just request being as close to the pool as possible. We ended up being placed in a preferred room, which are closest to the pool and normally cost an extra $40 per night. I was glad I made my request as general as possible because I think it contributed to our magical upgrade!
This past November I actually received a phone call from the room assigner at Pop Century a few days after I faxed my request. She called to check if the room she assigned would work for us, and it was perfect. In my experience, you can trust that an actual person will see and address your room requests when you send them via fax.
Many others will suggest calling Disney to add your room requests to your reservation. However, Disney has recently made it difficult (if not impossible) to call the front desk of any of its resorts. You will be re-directed to a general Walt Disney World Resort reservation line if you try to call a resort directly, and a cast member will add room requests to your reservation in the computer system. I am sticking with faxing my requests since I have had so much success with this approach in the past and I’m not able to talk to some directly at the resort when I call.
I’ve been lucky to always get my rooms requests met, including getting connecting rooms, special views, and proximity to amenities and transportation. I believe this is mostly because I do some background research, limit my requests, and submit my requests in the most effective way possible. I wish you lots of luck in applying these tips and tricks and I hope you receive the best possible room on your next trip to Walt Disney World!